AceShowbiz - Actor Jussie Smollett has been accused of taking advantage of his friendship with the brothers he allegedly hired to stage his attack.
The "Empire" star has been charged with 16 felony counts for reportedly lying to police about being assaulted by racists outside his apartment in Chicago, Illinois on January 29.
Authorities initially began investigating Smollett's claims as a suspected hate crime, but then turned their attentions to the 36-year-old's actions after questioning Nigerian brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo as potential suspects.
The siblings claimed Smollett had paid them to help him pull off the hoax after meeting through his work on hip-hop drama series "Empire", and they were subsequently released without charge.
Smollett has vehemently denied the accusations, but now Gloria Schmidt, an attorney for the Osundairos, has slammed the actor for reportedly involving her clients in the fake attack.
"My clients were just taken advantage of by someone they trusted," she explained on U.S. breakfast show "Good Morning America". "This was someone who the brothers thought could help their career... Someone they had trusted to consider their best interests."
Investigators believe a $3,500 (£3,000) cheque Smollett had handed to the siblings, listed as payment for a five-week nutrition and workout programme for a forthcoming music video, was actually intended as compensation for beating the star up - allegations Schmidt backs up.
"They were paid for the training... but they were also asked to do this favour for him...," she said. "The favour was to stage the attack."
Schmidt insists her clients regret participating in the purported hoax, and are doing their best to move forward in a "positive direction."
Just one of the felony charges carries a three-year sentence behind bars if Smollett is convicted, which means Smollett could potentially spend decades in jail.
He is set to be arraigned on Thursday, March 14.